According to the team’s head coach Frank Reich, the Indianapolis Colts have discussed flipping starting right tackle Braden Smith to left tackle in the wake of blindside bookend Anthony Castonzo’s strained MCL injury—which should keep him out at least a few weeks (via the IndyStar’s Jim Ayello):
Frank Reich says there has been a discussion about moving Braden Smith to LT in light of Castonzo's injury. "Every option gets discussed. That's us doing our due diligence."— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) November 30, 2020
The former 2018 second round pick of the Colts has exclusively played at right tackle since entering the league as a rookie—having made 39 career starts in his early 3-year career.
The 6’6”, 315 pound Smith was initially considered an offensive guard at the professional level, but he started at right tackle as a rookie and played so well that he never was moved—and rightfully so. After all, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Smith is their 24th best graded offensive tackle with a +77.2 grade overall so far this season.
The Colts are pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place as it relates to attempting to replace Castonzo—as the fill-ins so far this season, Le’Raven Clark and Chaz Green, have been fairly underwhelming to say the least:
There’s no way they can start Clark at left tackle next Sunday, even if that means moving Braden Smith or someone else to that spot.— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) December 1, 2020
Smith would no doubt be an upgrade over either—even if it’s a bit awkward for him essentially flipping his side, technique and hand placement. Smith is doing well right now again, so the Colts may not want to run the risk of tinkering with him either.
There’s also the issue that if Smith starts on the left side, who are the Colts still starting on the right on his now vacant side?
Clark or Green again?
Left tackles still largely protect a quarterback’s blind side, but there are talented pass rushers on both sides of the line these days—and opposing defensive coordinators will look to exploit a team’s worst offensive lineman with their best pass rusher/defensive lineman one-on-one regardless of where that weak link lines up.
It’s a cat and mouse game.
Smith at left tackle would help, but it’s not a complete solution for the Colts because their offensive line still has a 5th starter that presumably is not or hasn’t been a replacement level caliber player on the right side.
At this point though, the current status quo along the Colts offensive line in Castonzo’s absence simply may not be able to continue.